County EDC wants to offer $100K to assist businesses

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The Wood County Economic Development Commission (WCEDC) passed a resolution at Thursday’s meeting hoping to aid Wood County businesses with emergency financial assistance.

In a statement from board chair Tom Keenan he related, “For over two months, the WCEDC has developed various plans and programs to assist small businesses, the local EDCs and chambers of commerce in the wake of the pandemic.  Each time the plans were met with road blocks as to the legality of the use of certain funds for the defined purpose of emergency assistance. New information has emerged as to the use of funds and other funding sources may be available.”

The WCEDC will present two options to county commissioners for consideration to fund a Wood County Business Relief package administered by the WCEDC for $100,000.  

The first option would be to use the guidelines developed by Denton County in a successful program using available Corona Virus Relief Funds. The second option would be to utilize newly interpreted UCC guidelines to access those Unused Capital Credit funds.  

Each option will be accompanied with the justification of the use of the funds as well as the guidelines and requirements for participation in the application process. The request will be made at the June 2 commissioners meeting.

Wood County Judge Lucy Hebron introduced the group to new Executive Director Roger Johnson and welcomed him to the group.

“Roger has a lot of expertise in hotel, motel and tourism,” she said. “I know he worked for Madisonville and did some great things down in that neck of the woods. He also worked for the city of Van. He has a lot of great ideas and brings a wealth of information and talent to this group and this area. He is based at the airport where there is a lot going on. Welcome Roger Johnson and we are glad that you are here.”

Jim Berry, acting executive director until the hiring of Johnson, talked about financials.

“Because of COVID-19 a lot of the activities that we pledge to fund have been canceled. So if we paid them we probably need to collect it back. If we didn’t pay it, we are not expected to pay it,” Berry stated. “The overall picture is we should have a lot of money that we should have the discretion to spend or to not spend. I think we have a big set of challenges.”

The group decided unanimously to continue having Keenan serve as chairman of the board and Vic Savelli vice chairman until regular voting time in September comes up. It was decided Johnson would fill the secretary’s role.

The board discussed the timing of hotel tax fund awards.

Neal Duncan, who has served on the board in many capacities, gave a short synopsis of the past procedures.

“This is later than normal. Historically, we do this in May, review applications in June and bring those recommendations to the board for the July meeting and then send out letters. The process is almost identical for the UCC fund program and we accept applications for that program in July,” Duncan explained. “We want to have it all wrapped up by September so we can get the budget in for the next year.”

Greg Hollen, who heads the WCEDC government affairs committee, gave a report on what some of the Wood County cities are doing facing the COVID-19 crisis.

“They are all communicating,” he said. “They are talking about when they are reopening when they are opening city halls, what kind of services they are offering. Everything from what is the status of the libraries, youth foundation activities, limited amount of social distancing, protective screenings and opening of civic centers. I was encouraged at the communication between the three largest cities of the county.”

The next meeting of the WCEDC is June 4 at 5:30 p.m. at the new Wood County annex. The public is invited to attend.